We all have our fixations. Mine is often the fixation of picking something out of the kids' noses, or wiping a runny nose, or getting Audrey's hair out of her face. I'm constantly thinking about checking for poopy diapers, making sure Sean's pants are zipped, or watching Sean hold his crotch while trying to "keep the pee in." I fixate on things like Audrey sucking on the child-size Crayola flossing tools because the package says for 3 year-olds and up (what awful things could happen to a 23 month old baby who's sucking on those things??). I often can't get these fixations out of my mind.
Other fixations are trivial, or at least I judge them to be so. Sean fixates on the things he can participate in: helping to grind the coffee beans each morning, or unscrewing the milk cap from the gallon jug, where we place his tooth brush at night, or how he must have a glass of water and a towel before he even begins to brush teeth, or flushing the toilet. Yet there are moments when that fixation changes, and he no longer wants his autonomous participation, but rather fixates on me and Tom doing it for him. Maddening.
Another fixation is the way in which the kids express their defiance. Sean is fire-y. He lays it all out there on the table. He screams and shouts - sometimes for extended periods of time - and he is in our faces; he is intent upon letting us know about the slightest discomfort, the slightest ill at ease. He will not rest until we know that he's angry and upset about something. Audrey on the other hand chooses a quieter approach.
The other day we walked down to the lake by our house, and the kids made the 10 minute walk with full energy. We marched through puddles and mounds of snow. I thought I could almost see the pent up energy leaving their little bodies. I applauded myself for getting them outside and for preparing them for a good night's sleep. But then it came to the walk home: both of them grew tired, and each one started to whine about walking. Sean outright complained and asked for frequent breaks. Audrey, however, decided this was the best possible time to stop walking, turn around and run in the opposite direction of home.... right in the middle of neighborhood streets, charging through puddles, and laughing hysterically.
When I would catch up to her - my pregnant self not as fast as my non-pregnant self - and I'd scoop her up in my arms she would calmly tell me about her plan.
Audrey: I want turn 'round and go back to the lake. Let me go!
Did she think that going back to the lake would make the walking stop? Obviously. After a couple rounds of me chasing her down and getting winded, I decided that was for the birds. Instead, each time she would stop walking, I would continue walking ahead of her and call to her from over my shoulder.
me: Let's go Audrey! Time to go home!
At a similar juncture, Sean might have yelled "no" or engaged in an argument. Audrey held her silence. When I would finally turn around to see what she was doing, she was standing in the exact same place with a smile on her face. She had not moved.
me: Okay - let's get going, the sun is setting soon.
Once she knew my eyes were on her, she would slowly, slowly, ever so slowly turn her back to me.
me: Audrey - no more going back to the lake. It's time to go home. Let's go!
She would hold that stance for a couple moments longer, just enough to lull me into a false sense of security that she might actually stand there indefinitely.
me: Audrey? Audrey Claire! Let's go. I'll give you to the count of 3 and then I'm coming over there. 1... 2...
Then she would begin to run. Damn it!
Or today, she was told by Tom that she couldn't have an oreo until she finished her vegetables. When I reinforced this statement and put her vegetables directly in front of her, she said nothing. She in fact reached for a spoon and the bowl, and I thought she was going to eat her peas, so I walked back into the kitchen to finish the dishes. Two minutes later, Sean comes running in.
Sean: Mama, Audrey dumped her peas everywhere!
I walked into the dining room to find peas all over the table, all over the floor, and Audrey swirling her arms around the table as if spreading seeds in a garden. She didn't say a word. She had also quietly been smashing some peas with her pink rubber ducky, grinding them into the table cloth. Not a sound from her lips.
What is this to tell me about the difference between my kids as they become adolescents and teenagers?
I turned my back the other day only to hear Sean inform me:
Sean: Uh oh. Audrey's on the table.
I turned back around, and not 2 feet from me, Audrey was standing - STANDING - on the dining room table, smile on her face, looking me dead in the eye. Had her brother not announced it, I wouldn't have been any the wiser. She's stealth like that. She's fixated on it.
There are moments when their fixation coalesces, and they realize that they're stronger as two than as one. Audrey didn't like it that I wiped her face after lunch the other day.
Sean: Audrey, if you don't want mom to wipe your face, you could just eat some more sandwich and then get more jelly on your face. Then the jelly would be back and mom won't wipe your face.
The fixations turn into vexations when I allow them too much time and space in my head. When I spend too long wondering if I'm doing all the right things to move Sean out of pull-ups at night. I can spend much too much time trying to determine if the kids are eating enough vegetables. I can fixate for days on whether Sean's temper tantrums are "normal" and "developmentally appropriate," but the worry and fixations do me no good. They just fuel a slew a questions that I have no answer to, but feel I should: When will Audrey start potty training? When will we move Sean into a
bigger bed? How will we manage when we have three kids all under the
age of 5?? Where are we going to find the best deal on a minivan???
We all have them, these fixations, and we can't escape them. The best we can do is to learn to live with them. My best days are when I'm able to smile at them. Both the fixations and the kids.
Tom's current fixation is Bob Dylan. It's not enough that he's reading
the 700 page biography or watching Scorsese's documentary, or
downloading as much Dylan music as possible. Each time I get
in the car, another Bob Dylan CD is in the player.
Audrey: (as music starts) Is zis Bob Diwwan?
At this point that I believe the fixation has gone too far. And then -
Sean: Mama, why don't you like Bob Dylan?
me: I do like Bob Dylan, just not as much as dad does.
Sean: Why don't you like him as much as dad does?
me: Everybody has different likes.
Audrey: Why don't you like Bob Dylan?
me: I do like Bob Dylan, I'm just not as big of a fan as dad.
on and on... You would think I was secretly burning Bob Dylan CDs with
the way the kids question me. And as time goes on, and the fixation
continues, there are times when I think of throwing the CDs out the
window. But then imagine the questions from the kids. These are the good days, when I can smile about the kids' fixations on my supposed music taste. When I can breathe in and out as the questions continue throughout the next 20 minute car ride. Me defending my like of Bob Dylan, and resting easy that I spend my days interfacing with these two kiddos and all our fixations.